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Album review: Chely Wright's 'Lifted Off the Ground'

May 10, 2010 |  7:11 pm

CHELY_WRIGHT_240_ Well, it worked.

A certain newspaper, likely to have bypassed country singer-songwriter Chely Wright's new album, "Lifted Off the Ground" — if for no other reason than it being a busy week for new releases — has decided it warrants a review, based on Wright's revealing last week that she's a lesbian. This newspaper won't be the only one; it's the business we're in, of biting the dangling carrot so you don't have to.

Despite scoring a big hit with 1999's "Single White Female" and her connections to Brad Paisley, Wright, nine albums deep and almost 40, isn't much known outside country music circles.

Wright's latest work and corresponding publicity stunt aims to correct that, and for the album's part, it's a noble, if too polite, effort. With its cleanly picked acoustics and suede-soft vocals, "Lifted Off the Ground" is nothing if not finely crafted.

But where's the teeth? Sure, she sounds mad on "Damn Liar" but as far as making statements about her "lifestyle," in a genre often defined by traditional notions of sexuality and family, Wright treads lightly.

"Heavenly Days" centers around a "Tennessee tomboy" and a "feminine girl," two lovers that are "nobody's master, nobody's slave." The gender-political subtext is provocative and fertile but could she have tilled a little bit more?

If Wright's going to make her sexuality a calculated component of her career, then why not use these songs to challenge the system? She's done it before with her 2004 song, "Bumper of My SUV," which takes liberals to task for knee-jerk reactions to military support. Maybe on her next outing, Wright will save a little of that spitfire for the cause that might be closest to her heart.

—Margaret Wappler

Chely Wright
"Lifted Off the Ground"
Vanguard
Two and a half stars (Out of four)


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